Welcome to the Irish Farmers Journal Thrive dairy calf-to-beef programme virtual open day, brought to you in conjunction with programme stakeholders: ICBF, Bord Bia, Kerry Agribusiness, Aurivo, Dovea Genetics, Progressive Genetics and Munster Bovine.

The Thrive programme team will bring you the latest news from the demonstration farm in Cashel, Co Tipperary, as well as discussing key aspects of dairy calf-to-beef production systems including calf rearing, genetics, grassland management and finishing options.

Introduction and farm system overview

Irish Farmers Journal beef editor Adam Woods and Thrive programme manager Declan Marren provide an update on the latest news from the Thrive demo farm where 140 calves and 140 yearlings are currently on farm. We take a look at liveweight performance of 2019- and 2020-born cattle as well as calf-rearing costs, entire system economics for steers and heifers, and why we have chosen to operate a 19-20-month finishing system.

Calf rearing – getting the simple things right

Attention to detail in the calf rearing shed is a must if dairy calf-to-beef systems are to be profitable. Adam Woods and Declan Marren take a look at the calf-rearing protocol on the demonstration farm while Jack Kennedy is joined by Sean McCarthy of Kerry Agribusiness, Vincent Griffith of Aurivo and Declan Marren to discuss industry-wide issues in regards to calf price, quality and the importance of building relationships between dairy and beef farmers.

Improving dairy-beef genetics

A key objective of the Thrive programme is to improve the key beef genetics of the dairy-beef calf. By using the Dairy Beef Index (DBI), the aim is to select sires that will deliver better carcase weight and conformation scores while not compromising on important traits to the dairy farmer such as gestation length and calving ease. Adam Woods and Declan Marren take a look at the genetics on the demonstration farm while in studio, Jack Kennedy is joined by Andrew Cromie, ICBF; Rose Goulding, NCBC; John Lynch Dovea Genetics; and Adam Woods to discuss the challenges faced in correcting what has been a steady decline in carcase weights from dairy-beef animals over the past number of years.

Getting to grips with grazing infrastructure

Dairy calf-to-beef systems require a high level of grassland management in order to stand any chance of returning a positive margin. This is only possible through having good grazing infrastructure in place in terms of paddock layout and farm roadways. The Thrive demonstration farm is a former dairy farm and so is perfectly set up to maximise the amount of grazed grass in the diet of animals. Thriveprogramme farmer Martin Keating from Westport, Co Mayo, has made many changes to his grazing system over the last few years. Declan Marren visited him earlier in the week to discuss how this has affected his farming operation and what advice he would have for anyone looking to invest in grazing infrastructure.

Finishing cattle and carcase quality

Adam Woods and Declan Marren discuss the finishing operation of the Thrive demonstration farm as well as liveweight performance at grass of this year’s finishing stock. They are then joined for a panel discussion with Joe Burke of Bord Bia and Andrew Cromie of the ICBF to look at the issues around carcase quality, weight and conformation of dairy-beef, as well as some of the challenges and opportunities facing the industry in the coming years.